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4.5 out of 5 stars14
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2006
It seems some reviewers were hoping The Writing Life would be something akin to Fiction for Dummies. Trust me, it's not. Instead, Annie Dillard, through anecdote, illustration and abundant imagination, reveals a little of the writing world that she so uniquely inhabits.

If you are new to Annie, prepare to be marvellously impressed. There are times when a single Annie Dillard sentence is so beautifully constructed that you'll wonder why you should ever bother picking up a book by another author again. As a writer, she is all sweet angles and breathtaking runs, like a star striker at football. Think Pele in paragraph form.

Intended more as a discourse on writing and the creative process of the craft, this is a great book for anyone who has ever wished to pick up a pen and leave so much as a few scribbled sentences for family, friends and/or posterity. Equally, it's for everyone who just loves reading and enjoys the opportunity to witness one of our greatest living writers take her talents out for a bit of a ramble. Annie, by this bloke, is always as good as it gets.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 1998
It is one thing to write a letter to a friend or jot a note to a colleague, quite another to compose a work for publication. Annie Dillard effectively captures the struggles of writing for the public, of trying to share a vision or communicate ideas through the medium of language. This book consists of numerous short vignettes to demonstrate what the writing life is like. Like many other writers, I instantly identified with a number of things Dillard struggles with and her hopes for communication. For example, I laughed when she drew an analogy between a starfish that loses an arm through autoamputation and part of a book-in-progress that seems to severe itself of its own accord. Through this and many other examples, Dillard captures what it is often like to be a writer. Some of the idiosyncracies reported are unique to Dillard's mental landscape (which, as much as I love to share it, still often strikes me as really weird), which is why I give the book four stars instead of five.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2009
Annie Dillard, author of several fiction and non-fiction books, has been recommended to me numerous times by many authors, the first of which was Deirdre McCloskey in her Economical Writing. As with many things, intention finally met reality and I was content.

Dillard meditates on the processes of writing, doing so without sentimentality or harshness. She imparts the lore of writing, showing the toil required to obtain quality: the labour to unearth the ore, the vision to ensure its purity, the sweat of crafting and re-crafting.

The book enchanted me, it compelled me to read it. I was meant to be studying for exams or to be writing myself, but instead I began to read it. It was not difficult - I used it as a break time pleasure. The book is slim, it curves alluringly in your hand when you read it. It demands to be read. I had about ten pages to go while I was in bed reading, but I realised that in my fatigue I was missing some of the rhythms, losing the lyric in the prose. I put it aside until the next morning when I sat outside to read the last few pages in the morning sun. What a pleasure. What a joy. What a reminder of the burden and the privilege of writing.

One caveat for those who might misconstrue the title, the blurb, or the other reviews. This book is not an instruction manual. Dillard does not delineate the 'rules' of writing, or provide advice to the novice author. She documents her processes, the events that affected her writing, and the conversations that catalysed changes in her thoughts or perceptions of the world and of writing. Do not buy this book if you want a 'do's and 'don't's of writing.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 1999
Annie Dillard's The Writing Life, for me, was like having a relaxing conversation with a friend about the pains and joys of writing. I identified with every sentence -- from starting over again on a writing project, to disliking the beginning of a work but loving the middle, to growing in this craft, etc... It is an addiction, and addictions are not easy to explain, so I understand the negative reviews of this book as well. Writing is an unexplainable yet enjoyable frustration. Annie Dillard's metaphores trying to explain the positive and negative aspects of writing -- from painting, to reeling in a log and fighting the forces of nature, to flying -- they are clear-cut, percise views of what writing is all about. This book is great for writers who just enjoy what writng is: annoying, aggrevating, frustrating, sole-searching, creative, self-understanding fun. Read this book. Relax. Enjoy The Writing Life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 1997
This brief, beautiful confession of the pshyche of writing is both inspiring intellectually and deeply satisfying artistically. It is written with great humility, yet itself lives with the beauty of words about which it stands in awe. It is abstract and concrete, mystical and real, but always a living experience about the sublest of experiences, the creative process. This is one of those books which, having been read from the library, has to be bought so that it can stand in one's soul and breath.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 1998
I have read this book at least three times now -- and will read it again yet. An inspiring and poetic piece of work. I am an author myself, and to Annie Dillard I say: Thank you!
This book, however, is not just for writers, it is for all who read. A treasure of a book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 1997
How did I miss this one when it first appeared? Lyrical, inspiring, full of sound advice and graspable metaphors, this book is a must on any writer/writing teacher's shelf. If you have ever tried to write something or attempted to teach someone else what writing is all about, this book will make your job easier. I was especially taken by Ms. Dillard's deftness on the subjects of audience ("Why are we reading, if not in the hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?") and revision ("Some of the walls are bearing walls; they have to stay, or everything will fall down. Other walls can go with impunity; you can hear the difference."). And for us Dillard sycophants,what a shock to learn that Dillard wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in a small, dark cubicle while subsisting on "dinner, coffee, Coke, chocolate milk and Vantage cigarettes." Way to be, Annie!
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on 9 August 2015
This means a lot to me as it is written by a writer I knew when she was young and had not started her writing career!
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on 2 July 2015
A brilliant book - everybody should read it - Annie Dillard has a unique insight into life
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2012
This is best enjoyed like a literary jewel box, full of multi-faceted views and anecdotes. Annie Dillard is breathtakingly honest about her personal struggles and obsession with fiction writing. She has an inimitable style which is refreshing, witty and insightful. A kaleidoscopic perspective on the art of writing.
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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
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